Limited Performance or Performance Unlimited | Brian MacKenzie

Issue # 34

 

Working for performance and working on our limitations are different, and unfortunately, we all fall into the trap of performance first. This took me a long time to understand, and I still work at it each day on not allowing my mind to play games with the reality of working on my limitations. The hardest part about this is when we are performing and chasing performance, we can be exposing and working on some of our limitations. However, the paradox is not only does that not work out long term, it ends up creating more significant gaps in some of these limits.  

 

While I am very capable of going faster or harder in many of the activities I do if I’ve exposed myself to understanding I haven’t developed the skill level, or the physiological capabilities of maintaining work beyond those limits or resting from those activities I am now chasing a ghost. That ghost, while it may validate something in my mind, ends up producing ghosts in many other areas of my life and I end up in competition not with the world, but my inner unsatisfied child. 

 

Using running as an example as it is a pretty easy way to get this across. Suppose I wanted to start running. I decide to go for a run one day and wind up pretty sore. Sore enough to not run for another 2 or 3 days. In that I learned I went and did too much to start. Or did I? I head back out again and do the exact same run as before. I’m sore the next day, but not as much. So I keep this process up until this run is no longer hard nor does it create anymore soreness. So I ramp it up again. I get sore again for 2 or 3 days and don’t run, and again repeat this process, again, and again. Until I’m running enough to fullfill my desires for what are my perceived limits. 

 

Most of us go about things in very similar ways to this runner. What do you think this runner could have done differently? There are so many different ways to go about it everyone has two-cents to add. Walk some, run some. Do some skill work. Go slower. Go shorter but faster. And nobody would be incorrect, but what any and all of us are giving advice on are hypothetical limiters and how to work in order get an adaptation to that limiter. So what happens once we’ve made serious progress with that limitation? Most of us test it against performance, right? Lets see how fast or strong we are and then lets chip away again. The problem is exposing another limitation once we’ve seemed to make some progress, because now we like what we feel in the performance. We are ritualistic head hunters who simply do not like to be confronted with change, and yet (another paradox here) change is the one constant in our lives. 

 

The elite athlete has it very differently, and in my opinion a much more difficult road here since everything about what they do in sport is based on results, not limitations. Imagine being the best in the world at something and winning being at the front of everything you do. What sort of life do you think you’d want in order to maintain this? It would look like groundhog day, and everyone important in your life would be out of your life for a season or camp so you could focus. You’d be surrounded by staff and people who were constantly giving you input and updates on your schedule, nutrition possibly, hydration possibly, supplements, training, practice, and you’d most likely be traveling more than anyone wants to travel. And when your career is over you’d get to unpack the winning thing, and how the real world doesn’t actually work that way. 

 

I find it incredibly interesting how we as fans seem to really only care about the same things in the sports we love, or the player we love. Yet, at the same time each of us understands this really isn’t a way to live and if you’ve seen any of the recent sports documentaries, you’d see a lot of the psychological outcomes from all of this.  Please see: Bigger Faster Stronger, Trophy Kids, The Weight of Gold

 

While you may not believe performance or winning doesn’t have space in your mind you’d not own a smart phone and live on an island. Everything in our culture is about getting ahead and performing which requires some real deep work to unpack. Maybe not, maybe you can give or take and have a healthy relationship with it. You, afterall are the only one who really knows that truth. For me, and working with professional athletes I know I always want to see them do well, and if winning is a part of that great. If it is not my hope is the work I’ve been able to show them far transcends winning, and sport. Yet the paradox of this is that winning or simply getting faster or stronger can always be a part of that as well. The practice is in how it’s training our minds!

Give and Take | Emily Hightower

Issue #15

If someone says “hi” to you, you say “hi” back. To not do that would be rude. But why? We’re socially wired to reciprocate. There’s a stress response called Tend and Befriend where we curate relationships based on anything we have in common in exchange for tribal safety in numbers. If you’ve ever been in a new group environment you can witness yourself adjusting your style of speech and body language to fit in. It’s a subconscious response in our wiring. The more secure we are in ourselves, the less this nervous system response kicks in. It takes stability to be authentic. 

Our need to reciprocate works against us in the Attention Economy where this biological drive to connect makes us spend our time (ourselves) to repay attention in an unfair exchange that can cost us our stability. 

What’s unfair about it? 

When someone says “hi” to you passing by on the street it takes the same energy to say “hi” back. Compare that to how much energy it takes you to ‘like’ something on social media. You can ‘like’ something without even reading the content. Just a tiny touch of the screen and you’ve made a mark. How that mark is received is not energetically equal for most. Most of us put a higher value on ‘likes’ than they deserve. We spend our premium, sacred time and attention trying to get more of these little marks that require very little investment from the other people involved. 

This is true of comments as well. It takes very little energy for someone to spew their opinion in response to your post; much less time than it probably took you to make that post. The need to reciprocate to all comments can rob you of energy and set expectations about how you will respond in the future. A circle of call and response takes over that might not match the actual budget you have for giving attention to what you truly care about. 

This is not to say valuable exchanges cannot come from social media! I’ve met some of my favorite teachers and SH//FT members through those thoughtful exchanges.

When someone texts you, the biological desire to reciprocate clicks in immediately. If you have notifications turned on, you’ll be notified of the message no matter what you are doing. To not respond requires going against your biology. To respond immediately means switching attention from whatever you were actually doing which can include everything from cooking, being with your kids, and even driving. (I’m guilty of all) This type of switching adds up throughout the day. Scattering attention to reciprocate texts, emails, snapchats etc. weakens your presence and drains you attention reserve for real-time experiences. 

One way to work with this drive in your favor is to batch how you spend yourself. Batch windows of time when you’ll respond to your notifications and audit the amount of energy you’re willing to engage with in things like comments on social media from a more stable, aware place.

When we give from a place of stability, we get stability in exchange. When we give from a place of need, we get needy.  

In Time,

Emily Hightower

Army of Darkness | Brian MacKenzie

Issue #14

This last week I spent three days at Pelican Bay State Prison. As some may know, I have spent some time in prisons and correctional facilities for the last several years. This started with running an Art of Breath Program at San Quentin State Prison for six months until everything was stopped when COVID hit. Pelican Bay is in the absolute middle of nowhere and is one of, if not the most, secure prisons in the country. It houses the SHU (security housing unit) an isolation-based housing unit designed to keep the individual segregated from everyone else. Google images and videos if you care to see them. Pelican Bay is a Level 4 prison where at one time the worst of the worst went. It was the end of the road (you were never leaving). 

In my week-long adventure I experienced some of the deeper, darker aspects of human beings which did not come from the prisoners or the Correctional Officers/Staff at the prison. The prisoners and staff were a different experience of possibility and growth. Crazy to state this about prison like this! What I experienced that was darker was the large number of human beings who have decided to care or not to care about this population or the prison system. 

Let me articulate this in a way that helps anyone who cares to read this to understand where I am coming from. 

Many of us have made decisions about how we feel about most issues or many of the ‘systems’ in place through gathering information from media, the internet, and even social media. So, we end up planting a flag in an issue because so and so (a person I trust) feels a specific way and has gathered said information about a subject that I trust. They align with our feelings, and this is a very natural phenomenon that is rooted in our survival instincts. It’s why we didn’t eat poisonous shit or fight a bear. Someone learned a lesson for us, and we survived. 

Society has made leaps and bounds towards making us safer and life incredibly convenient for everyone, from disease to food, to transportation, and on and on. With that security we have been allowed to care more about a lot of other stuff. So we spend our time gathering information from others while learning who we like more and like less. One side does this. Well, I do that. We all get it. Critical thinking has little to do with this process, as we assume that the information we are fed is the truth on almost every occasion.

The truth is interesting because it is rarely seen but often felt. To understand the truth for ourselves, we have to learn to work on ourselves. When we work on ourselves, we see many of the insecurities and issues we’ve avoided or protected ourselves from. It is a process that involves deep reflection and an ability to understand why we react instead of respond. The search for the truth is rooted in the foundation of science, and I will paraphrase William Briggs on this. The truth implies there is an uncertainty to something as we can not be uncertain of nothing. Therefore, we are uncertain of something, and if there is some thing, there must be truth. I know it is a mouthful; however, this is where truth exists, in our conscious understanding that there must be more to this.  

Our consciousness is the ability to seek out this truth and our ability to be aware of more. The last decade or so of work has made one thing very clear about our polarized world. On one side or the other, the common theme is that the other side isn’t thinking clearly, and how could they come to these conclusions? It is my awareness that is better than your awareness ‘thing.’ Never realizing the algorithms in front of me are not the same in front of you, feeding our misunderstood feelings. It is entertaining to watch most of the time, albeit a sad show. 

So here is how this fits with prisons or any issue if you feel like inserting it. On the right, we’ve got people who think that prison reform is asinine and that many people should be locked up and we should throw away the key (this is the end); on the left, we have people who want to shut down all prisons and let as many people out as possible (this is the extreme other end). There are a lot of opinions and information that swirl on either end of this as to the why, but by and large, I’ve come to understand that the lack of understanding has created the most noise in these halls of dissonance. Big money fuels feelings. The siding up on issues – like prison reform in this case – shows who cares and who does not but is equally vocal. It is without fail where uncontrolled emotion (reaction) to an issue show’s how deeply someone has taken the time to understand their insecurities. Why do ‘the work’ when my feelings can be validated through my choice of information portal (insert media, internet, social media)? It’s the equivalent of having a drink every night to calm down, except this is literally ‘killing you by you’ without any chemical or toxin necessary. It is clear as day for those who seek the truth. 

Some of the most polarizing issues we have today have a token representative for the cause that usually self-identify with either having something ‘wrong’ with them or with humanity and that they have the answer. I’ve sat on this soap box of cynicism and self-defeating behavior. There was never anything wrong with me, nor is there anything wrong with you. I was only being fed that through whichever stream validated my opinion, which stems from my feelings. We are all afraid when we cannot understand. Understanding requires us to go through something, not gather information, for the sake of knowledge. 

I am not writing this to convince you of prison reform, which I have mixed feelings on. I am not interested in your opinion of the issues you care about, nor do I want you to care about my opinion of any problem I care about. I, however, do care about how you care about yourself. When we begin to care about ourselves, we look at others in the same light. Until then, we can never know how dark we are, thinking we only stand for what’s right. 

SH//FT Health is built on this and your exploration of the truth. We begin February 18, and we hope to see you there!

Projected Mirrors | Brian MacKenzie

Issue #12

Most of us have heard the term we are mirrors of each other. Although I believed I understood this analogy most of my adult life, it has come into a new light and understanding for me.

I’ll start with what I thought I understood.

When I would think of people as mirrors, I was under the impression that the behaviors I did or did not like in others reflected my behavior(s). Similarly, the behaviors I picked up from my parents, siblings, and even friends were a manifestation of this paradigm of mirroring. While none of this is wrong or incorrect, I’ve come to understand this process is more in line with attachments and patterns we mimic. Still, a very natural process, and nothing is wrong as we all live this process out.

I have been curious about most of the human experience my entire life. Most who choose to read this stuff probably understand that I went towards this human experience through the physical and human performance side.

Almost 25 years ago, a light bulb came on that was the first actual event horizon in my life outside of being born; I was 23. I began to rethink my decisions; I began to look at the people I chose to associate with. I began to educate myself. I started to ask others for help with understanding life. I began to ask critical questions. I figuratively, and in some cases, literally died and went in the opposite direction of everything I knew and understood.

This process has defined the last 25 years of my life, career, and path. I learned to think critically at a time when most of my peers were still reinforcing a lifestyle and habits that would come to haunt most of them. That’s not to say I was the beacon of decision-making, as I am still working on that.

This path has led me to many interesting and brilliant people. I have been fortunate beyond my ability to make sense of with these relationships and the ability to learn from so many of these people who have quite literally changed the arc of many of the industries they exist in. Learning from many of them is where many of my ideas come from and this is precisely where the mirror changed for me.

The mirror is much more straightforward than behavior and is not relegated only to people. However, it can still involve our behavior. It is in our emotions, and the reflection is my emotion. Our emotions are the accumulation of feelings drawn from our senses (all 8 of them). This filtering is the work of our nervous system and many of the physiological processes involved in this. However, when we were children, we could not filter those feelings as our pre-frontal cortexes weren’t entirely online until 24 or 25 years old. This is why, as children, we developed patterns of emotions to feelings; we lacked the logic to solve the feeling of discomfort.

Fast forward to being an adult -> “this is who I am.”

Only when we can logically look at something can we learn to process or begin to understand it. The cure for anything is understanding, yet how many of us want to go through something to understand it? I know I’ve kicked and screamed… there’s that mirror.

It is not a coincidence that with the equivalent of more than 100 newspapers of information being thrown at us every day, an educational system predicated on the memorization of data (no real skill), 100 podcasts for every subject and hack, and everyone and everything telling us what is important and how to think that we’ve deemed mental health its own sub-unit of health. 

If just a fraction of the above we were to engage in, who in their right mind would ever want to go through anything to understand it? Why do that when I feel like I am getting all the information I need from an influencer, professor, podcaster, scientist, or expert extraordinaire? Why would I get off the couch from the news? Why would I not scroll infinitely through the Gram? Why would I not pick a side to stand for? Because it requires more energy than I have. Now that I’ve given my attention to all of this, I believe I understand. The emotion remains as anger, sadness, and fear. The mirror shows me where the anger, sadness, depression, and anxiety are still inside me. Because whatever I am choosing is not changing this stuff.

It’s not all bad. How many get the mirror of love, happiness, and joy? We all do at times! But, unfortunately, life is difficult regardless of who you are; that has been my experience traveling the world. No amount of wealth or fame saves you from this. I’ve seen it first hand, and in fact, in most cases makes it even harder to understand any of this as we can so easily insulate ourselves with excitement and convenience.

Equality and freedom are in that mirror and it’s there when and where I want to experience it. It’s in how I recover after a workout or during it. It is how I handle not knowing how to communicate or hearing something that doesn’t feel good. It is in my practice every time I am willing to experience it.

We are about to enter a new SH//FT in discussing Health. If you’ve been paying attention to these emails or any of our information, you know this is coming. Our programming for membership and our offerings are about this evolution.

We are looking forward to engaging more with you all,

Brian MacKenzie